It almost seemed as if two different Indians teams showed up at Progressive Field today. The first one started the game and played until the seventh inning. The second one took over with two outs in the seventh, but just didn’t have enough time to turn things around. Team 1 was sloppy on defense, a bit wild on the mound, and got no-hit by Anibal Sanchez while looking absolutely lifeless at the plate. When Team 2 stepped in during the bottom of the seventh, Cody Allen and Scott Barnes retired all six batters they faced (Allen struck out the side), and the offense came alive with three runs on five hits. Since Team 1 had already put them in a 5-0 hole, it just wasn’t enough to put them over the top.
Even though it was a little bit difficult to tell from my seat angle, Justin Masterson looked pretty wild at the plate. He was the unfortunate beneficiary of an error that led to two unearned runs, but he still walked four and reached 105 pitches after just 4.2 innings. (He was already in the 50+ pitch range by the second inning). Masterson managed to strike out eight, but Detroit ran his pitch count up quickly. While people have rightfully criticized Ubaldo Jimenez for his struggles this year, I feel like Masterson tends to miss out on some of that ire. Sure, he’s been better than Jimenez and has had bad luck where run support is concerned, but he still has an ERA that is hovering around five. The year isn’t completely over yet, but Masterson has already mostly assured that 2012 will provide the highest ERA of his career, the most walks of his career and the most home runs allowed of his career. After the season is complete, it will be interesting to pull apart Masterson’s 2012 season and compare it to his 2011 season to try and see where everything went wrong. One thing that I’d like to note is that he’s had nine games this season where he allowed six or more earned runs. He had just two games where he allowed six or more earned runs in 2011.
Masterson isn’t the only player to fall off the cliff, so to speak, this season. Lou Marson is typically regarded for his defense rather than his bat, but this year he has even looked poor defensively. He went 0 for 3 in attempting to throw out runners today, and had an error on one of the throws to second. To be fair, sometimes this can be blamed on the pitcher, since it’s also his responsibility to hold the runner. Since Marson and Santana both deal with the same pitchers, for the most part, I decided to compare their defensive performance this season. Marson has allowed 57 stolen bases, while he’s caught 7; an 11% caught stealing rate over 484.2 innings played (the league average is around 25% this year). He’s allowed two passed balls and has two errors, and has been behind the plate for 18 wild pitches. Carlos Santana has allowed 60 stolen bases and has caught 21 stealing for a 26% rate over 764.1 innings. He’s allowed seven passed balls, has seven errors, and has been behind the plate for 40 wild pitches. In 2011 Santana had a 24% caught stealing average, so he’s seen some improvement in this regard in 2012. Lou Marson’s average has plummeted – in 2011 he had a 38% caught stealing average. It’s curious as to how much Marson’s average has dropped, especially considering that last year’s 38% was the lowest of his career until this season. When you consider that everyone on this team has had truly awful moments this season, it’s probably no surprise that Marson was not immune.
A bit more of the good and bad from today’s game – Cord Phelps got his first hit of the 2011 season as he singled and eventually scored in the eighth inning. The trio of Santana, Russ Canzler and Lonnie Chisenhall were able to put two runs on the board, and Asdrubal Cabrera started today and got a hit. He’s been struggling lately, and with his lingering wrist issues it’s good to see him get a hit. On the down side, Manny Acta decided to pinch-hit Matt LaPorta for Casey Kotchman once Jim Leyland brought the left-handed Phil Coke into the game in the seventh inning. This is the kind of thing that can make a manager look brilliant or insane. LaPorta has looked pretty awful since his call-up from the minors, but he did homer in the Indians’ comeback win on Thursday. However, he struck out to end the inning and the rally. I will say this about Acta’s decision – LaPorta probably had just as good of a chance to get on base as Kotchman. At the time, I wondered if Michael Brantley was available to pinch-hit since he’s actually hit left-handed pitching fairly well this season. When LaPorta came to the plate, I figured that Brantley had some injury issues and wasn’t up to playing. When the Indians got to the bottom of the ninth, Acta sent Brantley in to pinch hit for LaPorta. I’m not sure why he didn’t give him a chance in the seventh, but maybe he just wanted to see what LaPorta could do in a clutch situation against a left-handed pitcher.
There was a decent crowd at the ballpark today, 22,849 to be exact. Many were Detroit fans though, and there were enough folks cheering for the Tigers to often drown out the Indians fans at the game. I even saw one Indians fan that chose to place a bag on his head as part of his game attire. He’s not the first, and probably won’t be the last to do so – there are still 2 1/2 weeks of Indians baseball left this season.